7 Ash Wednesday Quotes by Pope Saint John Paul II

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day we enter the great penitential season of Lent, a season that draws our attention to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. For many, this season is about “giving something up” (in today’s technological world that would be social media on our phones or limiting our phone time in general). However, you can give anything up or even take something on. Whatever your Lenten fast is this year, I encourage to do it, and to do it well with the help of God’s grace.

Fasting though is only one-third of the Lenten theme, we must also pray and give alms. Since prayer is our encounter with God, adding times to pray to our daily routine would be extremely beneficial to each and every one of us. A simple addition of prayer is signing up for Eucharistic Adoration in your parish or a nearby parish. Spending that extra hour in prayer each week will for sure increase your encounter with God. I really want to add more prayer time to my day, not just during these next 40 days, so that’s why I am working on adding the Liturgy of the Hours to my daily prayer routine.

For alms, if you have a favorite charity or don’t give to your parish, increasing your financial donations during the next 40 days will assist you in meeting the alms obligation during Lent. Since I am getting married in seven months, I am going to continue to clean out my closets and give away any clothes I don’t wear to shelters or St. Joseph the Worker, a local shelter here in the Phoenix area. Please don’t forget, there are many people less fortunate that need our assistance.

To help us prepare for this Ash Wednesday and Lent of this year, I now turn our attention to 7 Ash Wednesday Quotes from Pope Saint John Paul II. These quotes are come from his homilies and messages given to the Church and the world on the Ash Wednesday’s of his amazing Papacy –

1. “Today the Church lays great stress on this truth, confirmed by the history of every man. Remember that “to dust you shall return”. Remember that your life on earth has a limit!… Therefore the message of Ash Wednesday is expressed with the words of St. Paul: “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:20-21). Collaborate with him!”

2. “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. This invitation, which we find at the beginning of Jesus’ preaching, introduces us into the Lenten season, a time to be dedicated in a special way to conversion and renewal, to prayer, to fasting and to works of charity. In recalling the experience of the chosen people, we too set out as it were to retrace the journey that Israel made across the desert to the Promised Land. We too will reach our goal; after these weeks of penance, we will experience the joy of Easter. Our eyes, purified by prayer and penance, will be able to behold with greater clarity the face of the living God, to whom man makes his own pilgrimage on the paths of earthly life.”

John Paul II placing ashes on the head of a Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos in 2004. 

3. “During Lent, we prepare to relive the Paschal Mystery, which sheds the light of hope upon the whole of our existence, even its most complex and painful aspects. Holy Week will again set before us this mystery of salvation in the evocative rites of the Easter Triduum. Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us set out with trust on our Lenten journey, sustained by fervent prayer, penance and concern for those in need. In particular, may this Lent be a time of ever greater concern for the needs of children, in our own families and in society as a whole: for they are the future of humanity.”

4. “‘Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6: 4, 6, 18). Jesus’ words are addressed to each one of us at the beginning of our Lenten journey. We begin it with the imposition of ashes, an austere penitential gesture very dear to Christian tradition. It emphasizes the awareness of sinners as they stand before the majesty and holiness of God. At the same time, it demonstrates readiness to accept and to transform into concrete choices adherence to the Gospel.”

5. “The Church lives Christ’s redemptive sacrifice throughout the liturgical year. However, in the season of Lent we would like to immerse ourselves in it in a particularly intense way, as the Apostle urges us: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2). In this important season, the treasures of Redemption, merited for us by Christ crucified and risen, are dispensed to us in a most particular way. Thus the Psalmist’s exclamation: “Create in me a clean heart … and put a new and right spirit within men becomes at the beginning of Lent a strong call to conversion.

6. “Why does the Church place ashes on our foreheads today? Why does she remind us of death? Death which is the effect of sin! Why?…To prepare us for Christ’s Passover. For the paschal mystery of the Redeemer of the world. Paschal mystery means what we profess in the Creed: “On the third day he rose again”!…Yes. Today we need to hear the “you are dust and to dust you will return” of Ash Wednesday, so that the definitive truth of the Gospel, the truth about the Resurrection, will unfold before us: believe in the Gospel.”

7. “By inviting us through the discipline of Lent to tread the paths of love and hope marked out by Christ, the Church makes us realize that the Christian life involves detachment from superfluous goods, and the acceptance of a poverty which sets us free, and enables us to discover God’s presence and to welcome our brothers and sisters with an ever more active solidarity and in an ever wider fellowship.”

So as we step into this Lenten season, I pray that each of us upholds our penances and sacrifices with a fervent desire to grow closer to Our Lord Jesus and his Catholic Church. Ask for the intercession of the Holy Mother of God to give you the strength to offer up the next 40 days to Our Lord. Pray with the Saints, many who knew the day-to-day meaning of penance and sacrifice.

If you are now avoiding certain social media sites this year, make sure you sign-up on my homepage to receive blog posts when I write them.

10 Ash Wednesday Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI

Today, on Ash Wednesday, we enter the great penitential season of Lent, a season that draws our attention to prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving. For many, this season is about “giving something up” (in today’s social media driven world that would be Facebook). Whatever your Lenten fast is this year, I encourage to do it, and to do it well.

Fasting though is only 1/3 of the Lenten motif, we must also pray and give alms. Since prayer is our encounter with God, adding times to pray to our daily routine would be extremely beneficial to each and everyone of us. A simple addition of prayer is signing up for Eucharistic Adoration in your parish or a nearby parish. Spending that extra hour in prayer each week will for sure increase your encounter with God.

For alms, if you have a favorite charity or don’t give to your parish yet, increasing your financial donations during the next 40 days will assist you in meeting the alms obligation during Lent. Please don’t forget, there are many people less fortunate that need our assistance at home and abroad.

With this being said, I now turn our attention to 10 Ash Wednesday Quotes from Pope Benedict XVI. These quotes are come from his homilies given to the Church and the world on the Ash Wednesday’s of his Papacy. Feel free to share this blog post or copy and paste the quotes to your social media sites, that’s if you haven’t given those up for Lent.

1. “Dear brothers and sisters, let us begin our Lenten journey with joyful confidence. May we feel deep within us the call to conversion, to “return to God with all our heart”, accepting his grace which makes us new men and women, with that astonishing newness which is a share in the very life of Jesus. May none of us be deaf to this appeal, which also comes to us in the austere rite, at once so simple and so evocative, of the imposition of ashes, which we are about to celebrate.” – 2013

2. “Lent reminds us, therefore, that Christian life is a never-ending combat in which the “weapons” of prayer, fasting and penance are used. Fighting against evil, against every form of selfishness and hate, and dying to oneself to live in God is the ascetic journey that every disciple of Jesus is called to make with humility and patience, with generosity and perseverance.” – 2006

3. “This is our responsibility, following in St Paul’s footsteps, a further reason for living Lent fully: in order to bear a witness of faith lived to a world in difficulty in need of returning to God, in need of conversion.” – 2011

pope benedict on ash wednesday

4. “Prayer is a crucible in which our expectations and aspirations are exposed to the light of God’s Word, immersed in dialogue with the One who is the Truth, and from which they emerge free from hidden lies and compromises with various forms of selfishness (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 33). Without the dimension of prayer, the human “I” ends by withdrawing into himself, and the conscience, which should be an echo of God’s voice, risks being reduced to a mirror of the self, so that the inner conversation becomes a monologue, giving rise to self-justifications by the thousands.” – 2008

5. “…Ashes are one of the material signs that bring the cosmos into the Liturgy. The most important signs are those of the Sacraments: water, oil, bread and wine, which become true sacramental elements through which we receive the grace of Christ which comes among us. The ashes are not a sacramental sign, but are nevertheless linked to prayer and the sanctification of the Christian people. – 2012

6. “Precisely due to the richness of the symbols and of the biblical and liturgical texts, Ash Wednesday is considered the “door” to Lent. In effect, today’s liturgy and the gestures that mark it, together form, in anticipation and in a synthetic way, the very physiognomy of the entire period of Lent.” – 2007

7. “This absolute certainty sustained Jesus during the 40 days he spent in the Judean desert, after he had received Baptism from John in the Jordan. For him that long period of silence and fasting was a complete abandonment of himself to the Father and to his plan of love. The time was a “baptism” in itself, that is, an “immersion” in God’s will and in this sense a foretaste of the Passion and of the Cross. Going out into the desert alone to remain there at length meant exposing himself willingly to the assaults of the enemy, the tempter who brought about Adam’s fall and whose envy caused death to enter the world (cf. Wis 2: 24). It meant engaging in battle with him, with nothing but the weapon of boundless faith to challenge him, in the omnipotent love of the Father.” – 2010

8. “If Advent is the season par excellence that invites us to hope in the God-Who-Comes, Lent renews in us the hope in the One who made us pass from death to life. Both are seasons of purification – this is also indicated by the liturgical colour that they have in common – but in a special way Lent, fully oriented to the mystery of Redemption, is defined the ‘path of true conversion’” (cf. Collect). – 2008

9. “Fasting, to which the Church invites us in this particular season, certainly is not motivated by the physical or aesthetical order, but stems from the need that man has for an interior purification that detoxifies him from the pollution of sin and evil; it educates him to that healthy renunciation which releases the believer from the slavery to self; that renders him more attentive and open to listen to God and to be at the service of the brethren.” – 2007

10. “May Mary, our guide on the Lenten journey, lead us to ever deeper knowledge of the dead and Risen Christ, help us in the spiritual combat against sin, and sustain us as we pray with conviction: “Converte nos, Deus salutaris noster” — “Convert us to you, O God, our salvation”. Amen!” – 2011

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, Week 3

Continuing with the six-week Lenten reflection series based on the book, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, by Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, here are the quotes and questions that John and I asked yesterday from Chapter 3 – The Third Word: The Fellowship of Religion.

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary

1. “Have you ever said, in order to justify your selfishness, ‘After all, I have my own life to live?’ The truth is you have not your own life to live, because you have to live it with everyone else. Religion is not what you do with your solitariness, but what you do with your relationships. You were born out of the womb of society, and hence the love of neighbor is inseperable from the love of God.”

2. “In order to indicate that she is now becoming the mother of all men whom he redeems, he endows her with the title of universal motherhood: ‘Woman.’”

3. “The very thought of this Bride of the Spirit becoming the mother of humanity is overwhelming, not because God thought of it, but because we so seldom ever think of it. We have become so used to seeing the Madonna with the Child in Bethlehem that we forget that same Madonna is holding you and me at Calvary.”

4. “Mary had seen God in Christ; now her Son was telling her to see Christ in all Christians. She was never to love anyone else but him, but he would now be in those whom he redeemed.”

5. “…I wonder if it is not true that as the world loses veneration for Christ’s mother, it loses also its adoration of Christ. Is it not true in earthly relationships that, as a so-called friend ignores your mother when he comes to your home, sooner or later he will ignore you? Conversely, as the world begins knocking at Mary’s door, it will find that Our Lord himself will answer.”

Questions:

1. Why is it that Protestants do not venerate our Blessed Mother? Did it start with Luther?2. Do you think Mary was surprised when Jesus gave her away?                                      3. Why is it significant that the robe that Jesus wore was seamless?

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen…Pray for us.

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, Week 2

This past Tuesday, myself and John continued with the six-week Lenten reflection series based on the book, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, by Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church. Again, it was an excellent gathering of parishioners from the parish, with even some people coming from other parishes in the area.

The Seven Words of Jesus and Mary is the perfect book for the Lenten Season since it takes the words of Mary from the Scriptures and unites them to the last seven words of Jesus on the Cross.

As I stated in last week’s post, I am going to share some of the quotes and the questions we asked the parishioners who attended each session. I hope you enjoy them and can also reflect on them during this Lenten Season.

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary

1. “The Secord Word of Jesus on Golgotha and the Second Word of Mary in Nazareth teach the same lesson: Everyone in the world has a cross, but the cross is not the same for any two of us…My cross is not the same as yours, and yours is not the same as mine. Every cross in the world is tailor-made, custom-built, patterned to fit one and no one else. That is why we say: ‘My cross is hard.’…So yours is made by circumstances of your life, and by your routine duties. That is why it fits so tightly.”

2. “When God takes someone from us, it is always for a good reason…Every now and then Our Lord takes a lamb from the parched field of a family up to those heavenly green pastures so that the rest of the family may keep their eyes on their true home and follow through.”

3. “The tragedy of this world is not so much the pain in it; the tragedy is that so much of it is wasted. It is only when a log is thrown into the fire that it begins to sing.”

4. “Perfection of personality does not consist of knowing God’s plan, but in submitting to it as it reveals itself in the circumstances of life.”

Questions:

Is Archbishop Sheen saying that because each of our crosses is custom-made for us, no one’s cross is harder or easier than another’s?

Do we run from joyful suffering or embrace it?

Is it fair that the Good Thief got to go to heaven just for saying one thing to Christ? What does that say about His mercy?

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary

This past Tuesday, myself and one our parishioners by the name of John, began a six-week Lenten reflection series based on the book, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, by Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church. This idea of offering a book study during Lent came to me one night about three weeks ago, and after getting approval from my Pastor to run the series, John and I were off and running.

Seven Words of Jesus and Mary

The series is part of our Porta Fidei (Door of Faith) adult faith program which is overseen by me as the Director of Adult Evangelization and Catechesis. Also part of the program at this time is our weekly Saturday Morning Speaker Series and the Jesus Shock Follow-Up and Discussion, which concludes this Sunday night, March 16.

It’s my hope to share with you each week some of the great quotes from the book that we chose and shared with the participants. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was a master of not only the spoken word, but the written word as well. The Seven Words of Jesus and Mary is the perfect book for the Lenten Season since it takes the words of Mary from the Scriptures and unites them to the last seven words of Jesus on the Cross. I would really encourage you to purchase the book this Lent and begin reading it. It’s fantastic!

Although there are many wonderful lines in this book, here are the six we chose for Week One –

1. “These words of Jesus and Mary seem to suggest that there is sometimes wisdom in not knowing. Ignorance is here represented not as a cure, but a blessing. This rather shocks our modern sensibilities which so much glorify education, but that is because we fail to distinguish between true wisdom and false wisdom.”

2. “The ignorance which is here extolled is not ignorance of the truth, but ignorance of evil. Notice first of all in the word of Our Savior to his executioners:…It was not their wisdom that would save them, but their ignorance.”

3. “Tremendous are the responsibilities of knowing. Those who know the truth will be judge more severely than those who know it not.”

4. “The one peculiar and terrifying thing about sin is that the more experience you have with it, the less you know about it. You become so identified with it that you know neither the depths to which you have sunk nor the heights from which you have fallen.”

5. “People living in dirt hardly ever realize how dirty dirt is. Those who live in sin hardly understand the horror of sin. The one peculiar and terrifying thing about sin is that the more experience you have with it, the less you know about it. You become so identified with it that you know neither its depths to which you have sunk nor the heights from which you have fallen.”

6. Would you not like to be right now, just as you came from the hands of God at the baptismal font, with no worldly wisdom yet gathered to your mind, so that like an empty chalice, you might spend your life filling it with the wine of Love? The world would call you ignorant, saying you knew nothing about life. Do not believe it – you would have Life! Therefore you would be one of the wisest persons in the world.”

Next Wednesday I will post the quotes from Week 2. If you are in the Phoenix Metropolitan area and would like to come to the study, feel free to contact me at the parish.

Three Ash Wednesday Homilies from Pope St. John Paul II

We are exactly 54 days away from the Canonization of Pope St. John Paul II (and Pope St. John XXIII), which will take place on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014. Continuing with what I have been doing over the past year, and really the entire time I have been writing here, I want to provide you with some of the words of the soon-to-be saint.

Since we are such a “now” or “microwave” generation, I think many of us forget about the great theologians, philosophers, writers, and saints of the past very quickly. I try to make an effort in my own life not to forget about these great writings, even though some were written over 500-1000 years ago. Just because it’s not in front of our face at this very moment doesn’t mean things weren’t said or didn’t happen.

For this Lent, I am going to read Saint Teresa of Avila’sThe Way of Perfection. If I get through that, I will take up her Interior Castle or Saint John of the Cross‘, Dark Night of the Soul. There’s nothing like a little Carmelite mystical theology to help ones faith and prayer life.

Since today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, I provide you with three Ash Wednesday homilies from Pope St. John Paul II. I hope you have the time to read them and meditate on the words from the great Polish Pope.

1. Ash Wednesday Homily, February 28, 1979 – First Year as Pope

2. Ash Wednesday Homily, March 8, 2000 – Jubilee Year

3. Ash Wednesday Homily, February 25, 2004 – Last Ash Wednesday Homily (even though he entered Eternal Glory in 2005).

Pope St. John Paul II…Pray For Us!

12 Words from St. John Vianney to the 21st Century on the Importance of Prayer

Realizing that the season of Lent is nearly upon us, there is the chance many people are trying to decide what they should “give up” for this penitential season at the last minute. During the season of Lent, we enter the desert with our Lord Jesus Christ and turn our attention to three important practices – Praying, Fasting, and Almsgiving. Instead of giving something up this year, why not do something instead.

Prayer is one of the most important practices during Lent, however, it shouldn’t be just during the penitential seasons we are praying more, we should be praying all the time and without ceasing. As St. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”

St. Teresa_of_AvilaPrayer, first and foremost, is our simple conversation with God, as St. Teresa of Avila teaches us. However, we can also offer up God our work as prayer that we might do a good job in the office, in the courtroom, in the classroom, on the streets, in the parish, in the convent or with our children. Prayer is essential for our personal relationship with Jesus Christ and so many of the saints knew this well.

If you are struggling to pray or you don’t pray much at all, I would challenge you to find time during the day to pray this Lent. If you don’t set time aside and find a quiet place to pray, this season will pass by quickly and the conversation with God will continue with your silence.

To show us how important prayer is to our lives with God, below are 12 words from the great parish priest, the Cure D’Ars, Saint John Vianney.

St. John Vianney

1. “There is no one who cannot pray – and pray at all times and in all places; by night or day, when hard at work or resting; in the country, at home, or when travelling.”

2. “Those who do not pray stoop towards the earth like a mole trying to make a hole to hide itself in.”

3. “When we pray with attention and humility of mind and heart, we quit the earth and rise to Heaven. We reach the outstretched arms of God. We talk with the Angels and the Saints.”

4. “God is everywhere ready to hear your prayers.”

5. “Those who do not pray think only of temporal things like the miser who, when a silver Crucifix was presented to him to kiss, remarked: ‘That cross weighs at least ten ounces.’”

6. “You can pray by putting yourself quite simply in touch with God. When one finds nothing more to say to Him but just knows He is there – that in itself is the best of prayers.”

7. “Troubles melt away before a fervent prayer like snow before the sun.”

8. “There is one thing everyone can do, whether they find it hard to meditate or not, and that is to make up their mind in the morning to cultivate some particular virtue during the day, to practice the interior Presence of God, and to live their life in union with Him.”

9. “Prayer makes time seem to pass quickly, and so pleasantly, that one fails to notice how long it is.”

10. “St. Colette saw and spoke to Our Lord as we speak to each other. How often do we come to church without knowing what we come to do, or what we wish to ask!”

11. “Do not the continual needs of our soul and body warn us to have recourse to Him who alone can supply them?”

12. “I often think that when come to adore Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, we should obtain everything we want, if we would ask for it with a very lively faith and a very pure heart.”

Let us pray: O, St. John Vianney, you prayed often to God for the many souls you were given to care for during your time as a priest. Help us by interceding on our behalf so that we might converse with Our Lord Jesus Christ on a daily basis and pray without ceasing. Amen.